Laurence's Walks in London
Laurence's Walks in London

Individual Private & Tailor Made London Walking Tours

Photos: Peter Forsyth

Walking tours can be chosen from the list below. It's a long list simply because I have been at this for several years and I am always looking for (and finding) something new. I don't do the same tour every day or every week. Routes and content are constantly reviewed so future walks can differ in detail from these. Tours may be adapted, with sufficient notice, for particular interests.


It will be assumed that you have read and accepted the general terms and conditions before making use of the tours.

 

People sometimes ask me for my favourite tour but I design all my own tours to be interesting and appealing. Every tour is filled with characters I like talking about. Many of my walks have unexpectedly beautiful corners. And I like Woolwich Royal Arsenal because hardly anyone thinks of going there. 

Royal Society Tour (Unofficial!)

The founding of the Royal Society in 1660 was a milestone in making the modern world. Its distinguished fellows have included Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Humphry Davy, Charles Babbage and Charles Darwin. The Royal Society is probably one of the first things in the mind of the science tourist in London. This tour takes in some former homes of the RS. But it is an unofficial tour. So rather than focus on big names this tour covers some interesting but lesser known characters. And even illustrious societies have bits of their past they might prefer to forget.

 

A 2 hour (approx) tour is enough for most people, but for 'completists' it is possible to extend it at a little extra cost for a fuller picture.

London War Walk

Stories for the science tourist of scientific ingenuity, heroic and curious experiments, scientific intelligence, cunning deception and pacifism. The walk unexpectedly embraces a wide range of topics including patent medicine and the circus.

 

There are two 'Nine Boffins' Westminster War Walks:

 

  • A variety of figures from World Wars 1 & 2
  • A special tour covering World War 1 only

London Spy Tours

Take a London tour following its secret agents. I feature real stories of espionage, codes, sabotage, gadgets, covert operations, secret weapons, and cunning deception. 3 tours:

 

  1. Green Park north to Marylebone.
  2. Green Park south to Waterloo Bridge.
  3. Kensington, Holland Park, Notting Hill.

Woolwich Royal Arsenal Tour

Making the earth move: stories of industry, invention and discovery around the well preserved old military heritage site, now at the centre of new development. For a while it was so secret that it was blanked on the map. Dickensian, but once a technical marvel, there is a Woolwich Royal Arsenal tour in which we are assisted by a Victorian guide book. Or there is a double-length Royal Arsenal, Common and Dockyard tour available. The longer tour supplements walking with some public transport and thus it is only suitable for smaller groups.) Absolutely NO football!

London Cemetery Tours

'Boffins in Coffins' Cemetery Tours With an Angle

Brompton is a particularly attractive cemetery, often used as a film location, with an interesting set of scientifically inclined but colourful Victorians who have made this their last resting place. Medicine, natural history, engineering and invention.

 

I know Kensal Green Cemetery too.

A Morning's Walk from London to Kew by Sir Richard Phillips in 1817

200 years ago Sir Richard Phillips wrote about his perambulation through Georgian London past milkmaids, factories, windmills and workhouses. Doing all he did in a morning is unfeasible. But I'm thinking about retracing his steps part of the way this bicentenary year, with some readings at appropriate points. Please contact me if you would be interested.

Science Museum Tour (Unofficial)

Apart from a few iconic objects it can be difficult to appreciate the treasures in the Science Museum without the back story. The museum's own tours are very short and tend to focus on the famous. My tour for very small groups aims to highlight some of the neglected wonders you might pass by, and helps both scientists and non-scientists to enjoy the museum - explaining context, connecting the familiar and the unfamiliar, answering questions, and most importantly adding a human story.

 

The 1.5 hour tour focuses on the mechanical revolution and objects on the ground floor, with a London bias. I am also developing a tour concentrating on electricity, computing and communication, mostly on the second floor.

 

'This was an ideal way of learning more about the Industrial Revolution and its links to London. Very useful for me'

 

'Laurence introduces some unsung heroes of the Industrial Revolution and the ingeneous instruments, gadgets and machines they invented, without which Britain and indeed the world would not be the same today. Inspiring.'

Royal Institution Tour (Unofficial)

Qualification for membership was only a love of science so members have been remarkably varied, from princes to poets, and soldiers to suffragettes. The tour explores social as well as scientific history. Not suitable for large groups.

The RI was founded in 1799 to disseminate and apply scientific knowledge. This tour covers its foundation, some of its leading scientists since then (Faraday, Davy etc.) and a few who only visited. Monday to Friday (subject to RI business beyond my control) it is often possible to see inside the historic building but a fascinating tour telling the story through other historic sites in the area is possible even when it is closed.

Geeky Ladies Tour

Photo: LL

Ladies from the last 200 years with an enthusiasm for electricity, trousers and uncute pets. The much lauded figure of Ada Lovelace is NOT part of this tour because there are plenty of other interesting, determined, creative and engagingly eccentric women to celebrate. This longer tour in Paddington and Kensington.

Double-Take Tour

Perhaps you are new to London but you are not interested in royalty, churches and shopping? You may still like to see the famous sights - from Buckingham Palace to Covent Garden. But instead of hearing about the usual stuff you can hear stories appropriate to these sights but about medicine, science, social history, technology and natural history.

Fitzrovia and Marylebone Tour

Harley Street is famous for its doctors. This walk takes in a few of these but also inventors, a crank and a pathologist. The tour touches on music, buses, cattle plague, war, an unsuccessful culinary initiative and possibly (with due regard to the age of my audience) sex. Developed originally for National Science and Engineering Week.

South Kensington & Knightsbridge

Eccentric Scientists and Espionage

There's too much to talk about round here to fit into a single tour. One variant of this tour emphasises some of the war stories associated with the area ranging from cookery to sabotage. A couple of very eccentric scientists lived here, and one even managed to entangle sex with a sextant. Another variation of the tour was for students of Imperial College and features the Great Exhibition of 1851 and some scientific stories from the early days of their institution.

Science Museum Tour (Unofficial)

Anyone can appreciate a rocket, or Stephenson's Rocket. But what of all the other mysterious machines, stuffed and mounted here, that you might never think to look at? This tour is intended to give a selection of them life through the story of those who created them, their context in terms of human progress, and their significance to London.

Not suitable for large groups.

Bloomsbury Tour

Can a tourist be shown Bloomsbury without being told of the famous Bloomsbury Group and its literature, art and politics? Yes!

 

Come and hear some stories in the Georgian streets and squares of Bloomsbury of curious lives, strange adventures, startling achievements and forgotten by-ways of history around medicine, science, geeky ladies and war.

Blackheath Tour

The dramatically bleak expanse of Blackheath is surrounded by fine homes. It has been favoured by astronomers, explorers, engineers and a Bletchley Park code breaker. In our imagination we travel from the pole to the stratosphere and beyond.

Richmond Park Tour

Photo: Prabha Thapa
Beautiful views, especially in spring and autumn, and the unlikely setting for a number of wartime battles of wits and science. Golf, dinosaurs and more. More of a ramble than a city tour, and therefore there's a break for tea (cost not included).


Variation: a War Walk, starting at one of the car parks. In this case there are few relics to see, but there are surprising stories to hear, and who does not enjoy a walk in the park?

Vauxhall Tour

Vauxhall is an area whose current attractions are somewhat neglected. In the old days of soap boiling and manure making it was generally said of Lambeth that 'The skies ain't blue and the grass ain't green.' We still pass the old gas works but now this is an area with greenery (partly thanks to the Blitz), interesting relics and remarkable stories including intelligence matters spanning 300 years.

Wimbledon Tour (Local Heroes)

Photo: Peter Forsyth

Wimbledon is known for tennis. But it should be on the map for a host of other reasons - its amazing former residents. This tour to and through the village features discovery, invention and eccentricity: an aviator, a secret agent, an unconventional Victorian author, a Nobel winner (or two), an astronomer and so on...

 

This tour aims to be a tennis-free zone.

 

Future Tours

I am working on a tours involving Regent's Park, St John's Wood and Camden. I also expect to have a new London War Walk to offer soon.

Past Tours

Piccadilly & Mayfair

A medical pioneer, electric fish, an eccentric advisor to Lord Mountbatten, the buttocks of a Nobel Prize winner, and more. This walk includes back streets and arcades.

 

On a weekday it is often possible to see something of the world of Michael Faraday at the Royal Institution.

Kensington Gardens & Paddington

Who links the penny post with a cream cracker? From millionaires row, we walk through the gardens and up to the lab where Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. Also, the stories of a scientific suffragette, the wife of a Victorian engineer and much more.

Regent's Canal 'Every Inch'

The first stretch of the canal opened to Camden in 1816 on the Prince Regent's Birthday. 200 years later, on that date, this day long tour (8 hours) explored the length of the canal and the life around it over 200 years. That was about 9 miles but with a couple of pauses in pubs to refresh.

Across the Fleet from Smithfield

The River Fleet itself is now invisible but it flows underground around the margins of the City. This tour typically includes some Georgian science including unusual things to do with a sirloin of beef, and a look at the lesser known history of some Victorian landmarks.

Belgravia Tour

Belgravia

Starts with some social and railway history around Victoria Station. Then improbably links a dirty fork, a dead wasp, a cigar and a stegosaurus. It introduces the remarkable former residents amongst the area's green squares including two Victorian scientists - one famous and the other almost unknown despite his putting every waking minute to good and sometimes bizarre use.

Holborn and Strand

Photo: Mike Gould

A central London walk covering many aspects of invention and discovery through the ages. Developed for National Science and Engineering Week. From the comical to the ghoulish and from the domestic to the cosmic.

Chelsea North and South

Curious History: Battersea & Cheyne Walk,

 

This walk goes from west to east along Cheyne Walk, past the Physic Garden and Royal Hospital.

Wandsworth and Clapham Common

A longer walk involving astronomy, treachery, dinosaurs and sanitaryware. Some architectural surprises feature around these two attractive areas of parkland.

 

 

Famous Londoners Featured

These are the names the scientific tourist may know, to give you an idea of the territory. My speciality is the interesting ones you don't know.

 

Charles Babbage, Joseph Banks, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Charles Darwin, Humphry Davy, Michael Faraday, Alexander Fleming, Benjamin Franklin, John Hunter, James Clerk Maxwell, Isaac Newton, Alan Turing and Barnes Wallis

 

Historic Locations Featured

This is a list of places and institutions which have mostly vanished from the map London map (if they were ever on it) but which are covered among Laurence's different walks.

 

Camp 020, Blackett's Circus, Royal Army Medical College, MI5 London Reception Centre, Royal College of Science, Special Operations Executive, Ministry of Food, 2LO, Willis's Rooms, Board of Agriculture, Mass Observation HQ, Grosvenor Gallery, Great Wheel, Fortune of War, Bedlam, Adelaide Gallery, London and Blackwall Railway, Air Ministry, Kirkaldy Testing & Experimenting Works, War Office, BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Department of Miscellaneous Weapons Development, Royal Doulton, Combined Operations Headquarters, Foreign and India Office, 54 Broadway, Petroleum Warfare Office, Royal Arsenal, Pelican House, Admiralty Board of Invention & Research.

Private Tours

Please contact me.

Next Public Tours

Woolwich Arsenal, Sat 01 July 2017 Tickets available here.

Please check transport before travel especially at weekends.

Last Minute Changes

to public tours appear here.

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Contact

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Laurence$laurenceswalks.co.uk Substituting @ for $ in the appropriate place (anti-spam).

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